Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Suspect named in death of 9-year-old Tampa girl

TEMPLE TERRACE — A suspect in the killing of 9-year-old Felecia Williams has been identified and is in custody, Temple Terrace police said Wednesday night.

Police Chief Ken Albano said Granville Ashanti Ritchie, 35, was being held in the Pinellas County Jail on an unrelated drug charge. Ritchie, who has a Riverview address, was arrested in St. Petersburg at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday by a U.S. marshal's task force.

Temple Terrace police did not explain their unusual move — naming Ritchie as a suspect without charging him criminally in the girl's death or explaining his possible connection to the case or the family. They continued not to divulge how Felecia was killed, and what, if any, relationship Ritchie had with the woman last seen with the girl. Albano declined to answer any questions he described as "investigative in nature."

He used a news conference Wednesday to appeal to the public for more information while Ritchie is in custody.

"It's the totality of the information that we've gathered so far that leads us to believe that this is the suspect in the murder of Felecia Nicole Williams," said Albano, joined by the girl's tearful mother, Felecia Demerson. "To go into anymore detail than that would potentially compromise my investigation. Too much work has gone into this. Too much pain has been suffered by the family."

While police have released little information, it appears they have zeroed in on Ritchie from the beginning. A man who lives at the address police list for Ritchie said officers have visited there multiple times looking for him, starting Saturday.

Felecia, a third-grader, was last seen alive late Friday afternoon. She was picked up about 4 p.m. from her home at 2009 E Ida St. in Tampa by Eboni A. Wiley, a family friend.

Wiley told police that she took Felecia to an apartment in Temple Terrace and that the girl disappeared while Wiley was taking a shower, authorities said. A search for the girl ensued.

On Saturday afternoon, a fisherman found Felecia's body, naked and floating near rocks and mangroves, north of the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater. Police have not released her autopsy results other than to say it found she was the victim of a homicide.

Wiley was arrested late Saturday, accused of making false statements to authorities during the investigation. Police said the information she gave led them not to treat the case with the urgency it deserved, but have not disclosed what was false about her statements. She was later released on bail.

Investigators still want more information to help solidify their case, Albano said.

"Right now, again, he's off the street. The big thing for us is that allows me to have the window that I need to tell you and everybody in the community, if you have information, if you have been scared to share that with us, now is the time," he said. "I cannot emphasize that enough. Now is the time. Help us bring the murderer of this little girl to justice."

Ritchie's arrest history dates to 2007 and includes a domestic violence case in 2012 that was dropped, state records show. The native of Jamaica was charged with sexual assault, aggravated assault and domestic battery in 2013.

The Hillsborough state attorney filed the charges against Ritchie in 2013, said Mark Cox, a spokesman for the office. But the office couldn't move forward because when the victim came in for a deposition, she said she had no recollection of what happened.

"We couldn't ethically go forward," Cox said.

A few weeks later, in June 2013, Ritchie's wife, Todra Ritchie, filed an injunction for protection against domestic violence against him. They married in 2006, state records show.

Ritchie was also arrested in February and charged with possession of a controlled substance, the drug Ecstasy. According to the February arrest record, he identified himself as a cellphone technician.

Before Ritchie was arrested in St. Petersburg Wednesday, police initially sought him at his listed address in Riverview at 6414 Hollydale Place.

Instead they found Marcus Charles, 38, who lives with a cousin at Ritchie's apartment. Charles said he and his cousin moved into the apartment seven months ago, renting from Ritchie.

Charles said plainclothes detectives came to the apartment on Saturday and Sunday, and eight U.S. marshals, brandishing guns and shields, arrived on Monday.

Charles said his cousin knows Ritchie and arranged the living situation. The cousin declined to comment.

Charles said he knew Ritchie's wife well, but had only met Ritchie once at a family function about five years ago. He was a "normal-looking guy" who maintained a low profile around the neighborhood, Charles said.

During Wednesday's press conference, Felecia's mother also made a plea for information.

"If anyone has information about my daughter's killer, can you please come forward?" Demerson said.

The family's attorney, Ariel O. Garcia, declined to say whether the family knows Ritchie. He said Demerson was happy to know a suspect was arrested, but "this is ongoing," he said.

On Monday, Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay offered a reward of up to $3,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible. So far, that offer has yielded two tips, according to Temple Terrace city spokesman Michael Dunn. The FBI added a $10,000 reward Wednesday.

As he closed his news conference Wednesday, Albano made one more appeal to the public's sense of justice.

"I can't stress it enough," he said. "A 9-year-old girl was murdered. No one in our community — no one — should tolerate that."

Times staff writers Dan Sullivan, Jamal Thalji, Julie Kliegman and Weston Phippen, and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Services for Felicia

Felecia's funeral has been set for Saturday. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Rock Church of God by Faith, at 4323 E Henry Ave. Details of the service were confirmed by Gudes Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements.

Suspect named in death of 9-year-old Tampa girl 05/21/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2014 7:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and similar events, saying they are inappropriate could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  5. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence


    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …